"Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth" (Rom. 8:33). From the above Scripture we learn, that to be justified is to be free from the charge of sin. Until we believed the gospel the charge against us was, that we had "sinned, and come short of the glory of God"; but, having believed, we have the privilege to know that we have been "justified from all things" (Acts 13:39). To any who would question our right to this position or bring any charge of sin against us the divine answer is: "It is God that justifieth." If God, the God against whom we had sinned has justified us, who is he that shall condemn? In the epistle to the Romans, justification is said to be (a) by grace; (b) by blood; (c) by faith.
Justification by Grace (Rom. 3:24). Until, by the advent of Christ, the grace of God was revealed, the Jew was under the law. But as Rom. 3:20 tells us, the law did not justify. It had, indeed, quite the opposite effect. The law was a standard by which man's shortcomings were revealed and instead of clearing him of the charge of sin established his guilt. But what of the Gentile? He, too, is proved to be "under sin" (Rom. 3:9). True, he was never tested by the law publicly; but the trial of the Jew was sufficient to prove that "by the deeds of the law no flesh" (neither Jew nor Gentile) could be justified in God's sight. All human effort as a means of obtaining blessing is thus ruled out and God discloses that "by His grace" He can justify all who believe.
Justification by Blood (Rom. 3:25; 5:9). It is never God's way, however, to act in grace at the expense of righteousness; nor does He justify the sinner by ignoring his sin. Sin is a challenge to the righteousness and supremacy of God and to vindicate His righteousness, God must judge sin. But how could God execute the judgment on sin that His righteousness demanded and yet justify the sinner according to the desire of His grace? It is in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ we find the answer to this question. On the cross, the unsparing judgment of sin that God's righteousness required was carried out and thus His attitude to sin was plainly declared. Since the Lord Jesus has borne all the weight of divine wrath against sin, God is just in justifying all who have faith in that which is the witness of His death — the blood.
Justification by Faith (Rom. 5:1). If on God's side justification is by grace, on man's side it must be by faith. Grace is in contrast with law: faith is in contrast with works. Grace implies gift, and no one works for a gift. "To him that worketh," says the Scripture, "is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt." That is to say, had it been possible for men, by works of righteousness to have fulfilled God's demands, then they would have been entitled to justification. But, as we have seen, law and the deeds of the law are ruled out; hence if men are to be justified it must be by grace on the principle of faith.